The man who spawned a legend in college football died 79 years ago today.
George Gipp, 25, died only two weeks after Walter Camp had made him Notre Dame’s first All-American.
In his senior season, Gipp fell ill with a strep throat, a serious infection in those days before antibiotics.
According to the legend, Rockne sat by his bedside in Gipp’s final days and the coach, years later, claimed Gipp had said to him:
“I’ve got to go, Rock. It’s all right. I’m not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys--tell them to go in there with all they’ve got and win one for the Gipper.
“I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock. But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”
If it really happened, Rockne kept it a secret until Nov. 10, 1928, eight years later.
That day, Notre Dame was at Yankee Stadium to play a favored Army team.
According to Francis Wallace of the New York News, Rockne said this to his team before the game:
“The day before he died, George Gipp asked me to wait until the situation seemed hopeless--then ask a Notre Dame team to go out and beat Army for him. This is the day and you are the team.”
Notre Dame 12, Army 6.
After scoring Notre Dame’s first touchdown, Irish back Jack Chevigny said to teammates, “That’s one for the Gipper.”
Gipp led Notre Dame in passing and rushing in each of his last three seasons and his school rushing mark of 2,341 yards lasted 58 years, until Jerome Heavens broke it in 1978.
Also on this date: In 1985, home run champion Roger Maris, 51, died of cancer. After breaking Babe Ruth’s one-season home record with 61 in 1961, he finished his career with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1968. On his gravestone in Fargo, N.D., is this engraving: “61/'61.” . . . In 1980, Elston Howard, the New York Yankees’ first African American player, died at 51. . . . In 1960, pitcher Eli Grba became the first Los Angeles Angel when picked first in that year’s expansion draft. . . . In 1956, in a memorable Southern Section championship game at the Coliseum, Anaheim and Downey high schools finished in a 13-13 tie before 41,383. Each team finished 12-0.